Front Range Inn Is the Best Bar and Restaurant Near Red Rocks | Westword

Front Range Inn Is the Best Bar and Restaurant Near Red Rocks

Located less than fifteen minutes from the iconic venue, this charming spot was revived by new owners in 2022.
Front Range Inn is less than fifteen minutes from Red Rocks.
Front Range Inn is less than fifteen minutes from Red Rocks. Front Range Inn
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The 2024 Red Rocks concert season kicks off on March 30 and while the shows are the main event, Front Range Inn at 7779 Morrison Road in Lakewood is the place to go for pre- and post-show drinks and eats.

Located less than fifteen minutes from Red Rocks, this charming bar and restaurant is a long-time neighborhood favorite with an old Colorado feel and an upscale pub grub menu — without the downtown Morrison prices.

The building was originally established in the 1920s as an IGA grocery store. In other previous lives, it was a stagecoach stop and a dance hall before opening as Front Range Inn in 1969.

It closed in 2021 due to the pandemic, but experienced entrepreneur Kevin Carpanini and his sister, restaurant industry veteran Jen Rugh, reopened it in early 2022. The original owner spent a long time looking for just the right buyer, “someone who wouldn’t bulldoze the place and put up a condo, but would take its legacy into the future,” Rugh says.
a black and white photo of a small building with an old car in front
The Front Range Inn building was originally an IGA grocery store.
Front Range Inn
Its new owners kept the name as well as the style of the original Front Range Inn, but have made some improvements and upgrades along the way. The interior of the restaurant has stayed true to its casual neighborhood watering hole style, with several televisions, Big Buck Hunter, dart boards and a lively bar, but there’s also a breezy outdoor patio that opens on April 12 and offers views of winding Morrison Road and the mountains. Carpanini and Rugh are planning to build a second level to the patio, where, on a clear day, guests will be able to see all the way to Pikes Peak.

Although there have been many additions made over the years, the original brickwork is still visible in the game room and a large print of a 1926 photograph of the original building hangs on the wall.

Rugh and Carpanini say that the community was very supportive of their takeover of the business, albeit with a hint of apprehension from long-time locals who were curious about the fate of their beloved neighborhood haven. Now, those loyal regulars continue to return along with a burgeoning younger crowd.

“We changed a lot, it evolved, but it’s the same kind of community hub in this neighborhood," Carpanini says. "A lot of younger people might not come in here because it looks old on the outside, but it has a vibe. This place is fun. People come in one time and we see them repeatedly after that."

“It’s a really cool meshing of generations,” Rugh adds.
click to enlarge overhead shot of a cheeseburger and french fries
Front Range Inn offers upscale pub grub.
Front Range Inn
Executive chef Nicole Harris and sous chef Enzo Burrola have created an elevated pub menu filled with comfy classics. “You definitely wouldn’t look at this place from the outside and think, fresh farm-driven [food],” notes Rugh, but the fare is impressive. The burgers, available in seven different styles, are hands-down some of the best in the metro area. Options include the Front Range Classic topped with house-made burger sauce and fried pickles; and the Coloradan which is covered in flame-roasted green chilies, bacon, provolone cheese and smoky aioli.

Other food highlights include hand-breaded fried chicken brined in pickle juice and buttermilk; and homemade hand pies, which are like a grown-up version of Little Debbie pies, served steaming hot and filled with flavors like pumpkin, turtle cheesecake and key lime.

Rugh’s personal connection with Red Rocks adds a special significance to Front Range Inn. She and Carpanini grew up in a huge music family in a small town in southern Indiana. “Ninety percent of the reason I moved here was because of Red Rocks,” Rugh says, reflecting on the first time she ever set eyes on the world-famous music venue, which she describes as unlike anything she had ever experienced before.
click to enlarge tables in an outdoor patio area with an awning
The Front Range Inn patio opens April 12.
Front Range Inn
While most restaurants in Morrison close by 9 or 10 p.m., Front Range Inn is open on until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and it offers afternoon and late-night happy hour specials every day of the week. Though the kitchen currently closes at 10 p.m., it will be adding late-night pizzas and snacks to the menu in the coming weeks.

It also opens for brunch at 10 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, serving $6 Bloody Marys, $4 mimosas and signature dishes like chicken and waffle sliders with strawberry habanero balsamic jam.

The property has a large parking lot, and patrons are encouraged to park there and use rideshare services to and from Red Rocks, with the added bonus of having a place to enjoy post-show drinks and bites.

Front Range Inn is located at 7779 Morrison Road in Lakewood and is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday. For more information, visit
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